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The BCS Top 25 (Week 9): Clemson Roars into Top 5

Despite a strong start, Clemson will not finish undefeated. (Richard Shiro/AP Photo)

1. LSU

IT. IS. ON.  We’ve been circling this game for weeks (months?), and now there is nothing in the way of the epic 1 vs. 2 matchup between LSU and Alabama.

The Bayou Bengals haven’t just dominated teams this season, they’ve demoralized them. Even though they’ve played an impressive selection of schools that includes No. 7 Oregon, they’ve yet to have a truly close game. They beat teams into the ground, and the only team that had looked nearly as unstoppable is Alabama.

2. Alabama

Meanwhile, did you know that the Crimson Tide is only allowing seven points per game this season? Seven! Through eight games! Arkansas, the No. 10 team in the country, scored the most points of anyone against them this season. Their offense exploded for 14 points. Again, they are the No. 10 team in the country.

3. Oklahoma State

This is a nice story. The highest ranking in school history, and they deserve it too. They’ve played very well and have a terrifying offense. With their two toughest games (Kansas State and Oklahoma) both at home, they have reason to think they’ll go undefeated.

Except they won’t. College football doesn’t work that way. While upstart Kansas State probably won’t take down the Cowboys — Oklahoma will.  If Oklahoma State is undefeated going into Bedlam, all of the pressure will be on them.

Meanwhile, preseason No. 1 Oklahoma will still be angry about dropping out of the title hunt. When that anger is paired with their usual enmity for Oklahoma State, they will have a combination of talent and motivation that OSU won’t be able to handle.

4. Boise State

On a weekend that included a rare stumble (only winning by 11), Boise State now has reason to hope that they will make the BCS Championship. An undefeated season seems likely, and since either LSU or Alabama is going to lose, Boise State should move up to No. 3 in a couple weeks.

The only candidates to be No. 2 are Oklahoma State, Clemson and Stanford (their BCS average is close to Boise State and Clemson, while Oregon’s average falls off a cliff. A one-loss Oregon team is not going to leapfrog an undefeated Boise State squad).

There is reason to believe that all of these teams will lose, as I’ve detailed elsewhere. Perhaps more importantly, Georgia is back in the rankings at No. 22 this week. Boise State’s signature win, they have a legitimate chance to win the SEC East. The more they win, the better Boise State looks.

5. Clemson

They can’t go undefeated, right? Clemson is Clemson, so it is reasonable to expect them to stumble anyway.

But, they also have two (three?) tough games left. Starting this weak, their flawed defense has to take on Georgia Tech, who is terribly difficult to plan for. A few weeks from now, they end the season at archrival (and No. 13) South Carolina, a talented SEC squad that would love nothing more than to end Clemson’s undefeated season.

If that doesn’t work, they will presumably play Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship, a game the Hokies have owned in recent years. Clemson’s defense will stumble in one of those games, because they are just too new to the national stage.

6. Stanford
7. Oregon
8. Kansas State
9. Oklahoma
10. Arkansas

Stanford feels like a professional squad, but they are likely to lose as well. Along with a home game against Notre Dame and a game at USC, both plucky squads, Stanford has to play Oregon. They’ve not faced an offense anything like the Ducks, and that could be a difficult test.

If they get through those three games, they’ll also have to play No. 21 Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship.  That’s a perilous stretch, especially for a team that’s barely been tested this year.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s loss opens the door for Kansas State to win the Big 12. Up until last weekend it had appeared the Big 12 winner would be the Oklahoma school that emerged undefeated. Since Oklahoma lost and Oklahoma State is going to lose Bedlam, the conference champion is going to have at least one loss.

It’s not reasonable to think Kansas State will split with the Oklahoma schools, and if they get lucky with tiebreakers, they could take the conference. At the very least, they have a good shot as a BCS at-large team.

11. Michigan State
12. Virginia Tech
13. South Carolina
14. Nebraska
15. Wisconsin

This quintet tells you everything you need to know about the Big Ten. Ironically, Big Ten schools look most comfortable just outside the Top Ten. If we’re lucky, maybe Michigan will join these three next week.

16. Texas A&M
17. Houston
18. Michigan
19. Penn State
20. Texas Tech

Houston has a legitimate chance to go undefeated. In fact, it will be a surprise if they don’t. The only real tests left are SMU and maybe Tulsa. They should win those games, but what will that get them? What terrible bowl are they going to go to?

21. Arizona State
22. Georgia
23. Auburn
24. Texas
25. West Virginia

Oh hi West Virginia, it was nice of someone from the Big East to join us. Where are you playing next year?

The SEC seems like the most obvious choice given its recent proclivity for expansion, the fact that you are good at both football and basketball, and that Morgantown isn’t that far from the Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt campuses. The Big Ten also makes some sense since Morgantown is roughly equidistant from Ohio State and Penn State.

Why then is the Big 12 the only conference that seems to have any interest in you?

Doesn’t the athletic department have a lot to offer? Isn’t that the only think that really matters?

You can’t tell me that the SEC really values academics to the point of excluding you.  Whatever happens, it appears that the you are going to be left out of the Big USA Mountain East (too wordy?) football collective that sounds totally awesome.

In fact, it might be my favorite idea of the month. It would solve a lot of college football’s problems.

That is all.

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